Cabbage and Egg Pie

Breakfast for dinner? Why not?

Here is a quick and easy recipe that gives cabbage some flavour. 
Cut a small cabbage in half, core it, then slice thinly.  Put the 1/2 cabbage 
in a large bowl.  Slice a white onion thinly and add to the cabbage.  Mix in a
 teaspoon of salt and 4 tablespoons of flour.  Crack four large eggs and 
whisk together with 3 tablespoons of sour cream and add to the cabbage.
  Mix thoroughly.

Put the mixture in a non-stick skillet that you have sprayed with Pam.
  Cook on low/medium heat for 10 minutes or so. The bottom will be nicely 
browned.  It will look something like this (above).

Once solidified take what now looks like a cabbage omelet and flip it over 
into a cast iron skillet (again sprayed with Pam).  Add some crumpled,
 almost crisp bacon to the top, along with a cup of shredded cheddar 
cheese. Bake in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes.

Salt and pepper and maybe some hot sauce to taste at serving.

Fred Willard

Fred Willard passed away on May 15, at the age of 86. I was sorry for his passing, but then it struck me that his legacy has been recorded for all time and for all of us to see. I have been a Fred fan since his appearance as Martin Mull’s sidekick, as Jerry Hubbard, in “Fernwood 2 Night” – a parody of talk shows – that ran in 1977. Much more recently he appeared largely in cameos in “Modern Family,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” the “Anchorman” movies, and all too briefly in “Space Force,” which Netflix debuts on May 29. But it remains the Christopher Guest “mockumentaries” where Fred Willard’s comedic genius truly became apparent. Guest co-wrote, directed and starred in “Waiting for Guffman,” “A Mighty Wind,” “Mascots,” “For Your Consideration” and “Best in Show,” each of which featured recurring cast members, including Fred Willard. And it was Fred who generally stole each movie. He was at his best in “Best In Show,” as Buck Laughlin (below), the colour commentator paired with Jim Piddock playing Trevor Beckwith. “Best in Show” parodied elaborate dog shows, with Beckwith as an expert on dogs, and Fred’s character, who knew absolutely nothing of dogs, coming up with gems like these:

“It’s sad to think, when you look at how beautiful these dogs are, that in some countries these dogs are eaten.”,

“Now tell me, which of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

At one point he asks Beckwith to guess how much he (Buck) can bench press, and makes the observation about miniature schnauzers, that “you’d think they’d want to breed ‘em bigger wouldn’t you?”

Martin Mull, an admirer of Fred’s improvisation abilities, said that Fred did not have a turn signal. Well put.

And Steve Carell (below), with whom Fred worked on “Space Force,” said that after a single 5 minute improvised take on the set of “Space Force,” the crew gave Fred a standing ovation.

Christopher Guest said of Fred, with obvious admiration, “He has this Fred energy, which is not like anyone else’s in the world. Fred is from another place. Unfortunately, we don’t know where that is.”

Guest, born in the U.K., is the 5th Baron, Haden-Guest, and a British peer. He is also married to Jamie Lee Curtis (Lord Haden-Guest and Ms. Curtis, aka The Right Honourable Lady Haden-Guest, below). Ms. Curtis said of Fred, ”How lucky we all are that we got to witness his great gifts.”

Fred had received many accolades and awards over the years, but when asked what his greatest accomplishment was, he responded, “teaching my daughter how to catch a fly ball.”

Seahorses

I was listening with rapt attention to CBC radio’s “The Early Edition,” a program that originates in British Columbia. The host was interviewing Dr. Amanda Vincent, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia (UBC), who was just proclaimed winner of the prestigious Indianapolis Prize for her work in protecting seahorses.

Apparently what prompted Dr. Vincent’s early interest in seahorses is the fact that it is the male seahorse that becomes pregnant and gives birth. Here we are having just celebrated Mother’s Day, and now comes this bit of good news for mothers everywhere that a male has finally stepped up.

From that beginning, Dr. Vincent, a professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at UBC, has become a leading authority on seahorses, having studied them in 38 countries. She directs Project Seahorse, and through her efforts, conservation initiatives have been taken to protect seahorses from illegal trade.

According to the CBC report, in 2002, Dr. Vincent helped to persuade the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to adopt milestone legislation to limit global seahorse trade to sustainable and legal exports. And in 2018, in a media release from UBC, it was announced that countries that previously exported 96 per cent of dried seahorses have suspended trade in the animals.

For these and other conservation initiatives, Dr. Vincent was awarded the Indianapolis Prize for 2020. The Prize is awarded every two years by the Indianapolis Zoo and its $250,000 cash award is underwritten by The Eli Lilly Foundation. In a selection process conducted by internationally known conservationists, there is a review of the achievements of six conservation scientists prior to naming the Prize recipient. Dr. Vincent joins impressive company, including Dr. Patricia Wright, who won the Prize in 2014 for her work in protecting the lemurs of Madagascar.

Dr. Vincent above. When asked how she would use her winnings, she responded, “I’m going to treat a lot of people who have made a difference and contributed and supported our conservation work over the years.” And she said she would buy an electric bike.

In any other award year, the Prize would be given at a gala (which sounds like a real party) in Indianapolis. That will have to wait. But congratulations to Dr. Vincent!

And what of seahorses? They are fish, and vary in size from about a half inch to more than a foot in length. Seahorses swim vertically, and are adept at camouflage – helping to protect them from predators, as seahorses are rather poor swimmers. The female deposits her eggs (1,000 or more) in the male’s pouch, with gestation spanning 10 to 45 days. The offspring are quite small.

These stunning creatures are at risk, as too often they are swept up as by-catch, especially by ocean trawlers that pick up any type of marine life while targeting only a few. Millions of seahorses are lost each year as by-catch, but are also captured for souvenirs, for personal aquariums, or to be dried for use as traditional medicines.

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread needs a starter, just to get the process underway. Takes a little time, but worth planning ahead.

The Starter:
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-2 cups warm water

Mix the flour and yeast in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the water and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 2 to 4 days. If after a couple of days the mixture looks dubious (orange coloured), toss it. Otherwise proceed making the dough.

The Dough:
Very easy. I use 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour together with a half cup of bread flour in a large bowl. Add two teaspoons fine salt and mix well. Put 1/2 cup of the starter into a cup of warm water and mix thoroughly before adding to the flour and salt mixture. Again mix thoroughly to form a gooey mess. A rubber scraper is a great way to incorporate all the mixture. Cover the bowl and let it stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours.

Remove your dough and place on a floured surface. With floured hands form the gooey mess into a ball, flour the top and cover with a non-terry cloth. Let the dough proof for two hours. Score the top just before baking.

Place your Dutch oven, with cover on, in your oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven hits 450, remove the Dutch oven, and place your bread dough. Cover the Dutch oven and put in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for another 15 minutes. Your sourdough loaf will be done. Let it cool on a rack, and be tempted not to slice for at least 30 minutes. Great for sandwiches, toast and French toast.

A note about the starter: you can keep the starter in the fridge in a sealed jar for days into weeks. Simply replenish with water and flour. In this case I added a half cup of flour and 1/2 cup water, and stirred the starter vigorously.

The Result:

The Negroni

For some time now, and more often during the Covid-19 crisis, I have posted a number of recipes – soups, dinner entrees, bread – all of which have been tackled in our kitchen. It did occur to me however, that in these trying times, when many of us are seeking solace, why have I ignored the obvious? Cocktails! Easy enough to grab a beer, or to make a gin and tonic as we get into summer, but let’s think about branching out. Why not a Negroni?

I reached out to friend Mike. I know Mike as a pretty impressive golfer, a landscape design professional, and at about 5 p.m., a brilliant mixologist. (In an aside, it was one of Mike’s friends, knowing his penchant for mixing exotic cocktails, who referred to Mike as a “cocktologist.” I will stick with mixologist.)

Here is Mike’s recipe for the Negroni, and to which I have provided some minor comment. Be careful, as these go down smoothly.

Ingredients:
– 1 oz. London dry gin (Mike typically uses Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire; and says he wouldn’t use a strong botanical gin)
– 1 oz. Campari
– 1 oz. sweet vermouth (Mike uses Martini Rosso or Cinzano Rosso)
– 1 large ice cub (2″ x 2″)
– 1 large navel orange

To quote Mike: “Some folks like to shake the first 3 ingredients, but I’m more a fan of stirring this drink. In a rock’s glass, drop in a solid dry 2″x2″ cube (Mike likes the single large ice cube, thinking that multiple smaller cubes dilute the flavours.) Add the gin, vermouth, and Campari in equal parts. Stir the ingredients – I use a stainless steel twisted spoon – until the alcohol is chilled (about 10 seconds should do). Using a paring knife or a small, sharp peeler, peel back a 2″ x 1/2″ piece of orange peel, making sure to minimize the white pith and expose the underside pores. Rub the peel (pores down) around the glass, then twist it face down over the drink to express the oils over the ice. This will give it that awesome citrus aroma when you inhale as you take the first sip. Drop the peel in the drink and serve.” It may seem like a lot of trouble, but based on a recent Negroni serving by Mike, it was well worth his effort. And he more than proved himself a dedicated mixologist.

I might add that two inch ice cube trays are widely available from $10 and up.

Ventilators

Michael Enright, pictured above, has celebrated nearly 50 years of broadcast journalism. He has been with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for many of those years, starting in 1975, hosting among other programs, “This Country in the Morning,” “As It Happens,” and now, “The Sunday Edition.” Michael is known for his calming voice, his preparation in advance of guests who present a fascinating array of topics, his colourful bow-ties, and for his wicked sense of humour. Years ago, on the first of April, he interviewed a “fake” Jimmy Carter, telling his interviewee that he was a “washed-up peanut farmer.” A lot of people were taken in, including Canada’s most prominent newspaper, The Globe and Mail, which took Mr. Enright to task on its front page, only to express its embarrassment the following day.

Michael has also been described as a man “in search of the perfect martini.” (If you are reading this Michael – Bombay Sapphire gin, a splash of dry vermouth, a splash of olive juice, two olives, and a small splash of single malt whisky in a martini glass with a little bit of ice.)

I try to listen to “The Sunday Edition” whenever possible, and I am usually transfixed by what I hear. The April 26, 2020 broadcast featured Mr. Enright’s interview with Arthur B. McDonald. Dr. McDonald is a renowned astrophysicist, born and educated in Nova Scotia and with a PhD from CalTech. He is the recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics, shared with Takaaki Kajita, “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass.”

Thank God this blog post is about ventilators, as my knowledge of neutrinos, and astrophysics generally, would fit on the thin side of a dime.

That is Dr. McDonald above. He turns 77 this year, and while he sits as professor emeritus at Queen’s University, he is still tightly wound into the scientific community. As so often happens with “The Sunday Edition,” an Enright interview can take a surprising turn. “Why would a Nobel prize-winning astrophysicist, take a profound interest in ventilators?” (This story has appeared elsewhere in the media recently, but this live interview was special.)

Dr. McDonald, as easy-going, unassuming, and relaxed as the preceding image might indicate, was quick to pass credit along to his astrophysicist colleagues, especially those in Italy, who with the devastation caused by Covid-19, saw a need to invent and rapidly move into production a much simpler version of existing hospital ventilators, such as the one pictured below.

An Italian team of researchers, led by Dr. Cristiano Galbiati, an astrophysicist at Princeton University, quickly designed a ventilator that could be put into mass production using off-the-shelf parts, few mechanical parts, and with controls and monitoring accessed through WiFi.

Dr. McDonald and his colleagues in Canada have produced a prototype using the Italian template, He added that Canadian teams are working in close contact with each other, and with other groups around the world, to bring their ventilator into production. Their version is modelled after the Manley ventilator, with “20 or 30 working parts” (compared with 1,000 active parts of ventilators now in use). Dr. McDonald described the new ventilator as “about the size of a toaster oven,” and that, “by early May, between 800 and 1,000 machines a week will be made in Canada.” Regulatory approval should be quick in coming.

Anyone would be free to copy the device, according to Dr. McDonald, as the specifications are “open source.” It is a humanitarian undertaking with no emphasis on profit.

This was truly a remarkable interview, with a remarkably modest person who has proven that much good originates in Nova Scotia. One last comment about Arthur B. McDonald: he says his wife reminds him, “you aren’t a real doctor, you know.”

Peter Beard

I remembered Peter Beard as a world famous photographer, who in 1981, had married the supermodel Cheryl Tiegs. Their marriage lasted a few years, although they seemed quite happy here, presumably at the outset.

Peter Beard was born into wealth. His mother was from railroad money, his father from tobacco, and Peter was raised in New York City, Long Island, and Alabama. He graduated from Yale, and soon after graduation he migrated to Kenya, where he documented, photographically, the demise of African wildlife – especially elephants – which he published in his illustrated book, “The End of the Game.” He took to Africa with a passion, purchasing property in Kenya that served as his artistic base for four decades.

Peter Beard lived life at both ends. In 1996 he was charged and and gored by an elephant and survived. His photographic art was well-known and well-regarded, with his photographs selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. His private life? Perhaps not so private after all.

Beard befriended and occasionally collaborated with many artists, including Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon, Truman Capote, Richard Lindner, the Rolling Stones, Salvador Dalí and Karen Blixen. In fact, in Kenya he was a neighbour of Karen Blixen (also known as Isak Dinesen, and of “Out of Africa” fame). Blixen/Dinesen and Meryl Streep (as she portrayed Blixen in the film “Out of Africa”) in the following images.

And once out of Africa, Peter was well known in various NYC night spots, with various women, none of them his wife. He was a bon vivant, or more accurately perhaps, as a “bad” vivant. Whatever.

“There was the time in 2013, The New York Post reported, citing court documents, that Mr. Beard, then 75, returned home about 6 a.m. to the Midtown Manhattan apartment he shared with his wife, Nejma Beard, who was also his agent, after a night’s revels. Ms. Beard did not take kindly to his return — not because of the hour, but because he happened to have two Russian prostitutes in tow. In response, she dialled 911, declared that her husband was attempting suicide and had him committed for a time to a local hospital.”

Vanity Fair, in 2007, had this to say about Peter Beard: “Whether he’s at a New York nightclub or deep in the African wilderness, world-famous photographer and artist Peter Beard is surrounded by drugs, debts, and beautiful women.” Apart from his three wives he was linked romantically with Lee Radziwill, Candice Bergen and others.

Peter, early on, and in later years. Always a good-looking dude.
At the end of March this year, Peter went missing from his Long Island home. There was concern as he was suffering from dementia. Almost three weeks later his body was discovered not far from his home. A sad ending.

Below: Peter’s photograph of orphaned cheetah cubs. Seemed like a good idea to include it here as there is a sadness that Peter captured.

Mickey Rooney

During the Covid-19 hiatus my days have been filled with long-neglected activities; books that I had set aside, re-runs of classic NFL games, re-runs of grand slam golf tournaments, Netflix, the exploration of new recipes, going through my collection of DVD concerts and movies, and exploring the world of youtube.

I was directed by a friend to a youtube production of “Uptown Funk,” the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson hit that was turned into a “mash-up” with classic musical movies. To see what I mean, go to “Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk,” on youtube. There are a few mash-up variations of movie musicals, but you cannot beat this one. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Cagney (not just a gangster figure, but a great dancer – just look at him negotiating the stairs in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”), and more; and not the least Mickey Rooney, who, among his many talents, was a great dancer. Just watch “Babe in Arms.” Mickey is one of my Hollywood favourites.

Mickey Rooney was born Ninian Joseph Yule, Jr. in 1920 and lived for 93 years. I wondered why anyone would name his son, “Ninian,” and quickly realized (duh) … his father, Ninian senior.

He got his start in vaudeville, moved into silent movies, and from there his career took off. He did a series of “Mickey McGuire” shorts (which precipitated a name change), and at age 17 he morphed into the “Andy Hardy” series, a total of 16 movies. Three of those featured Judy Garland, and they then paired in musicals including “Babes in Arms,” which showed his versatility. His relationship with Judy Garland was nicely captured in these words, following her passing: “We weren’t like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special. It was a forever love. Judy, as we speak, has not passed away. She’s always with me in every heartbeat of my body.” You could feel the love in every scene they shared.

Still a teenager, Mickey again showed his versatility in “Boy’s Town,” a dramatic turn that earned him a special Juvenile Academy Award in 1939. He was in fact, for three years beginning in 1939, Hollywood’s biggest box office draw (move over Clark Gable and others).

Mickey was off to war in 1944, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in entertaining troops in the war zone. But, returning to Hollywood, he found that his star had faded. Few major parts were available to him until 1979, when he appeared in “The Black Stallion,” for which he received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. Before I leave his film career behind, I should mention that Mickey appeared in more than 300 films. And of his acting talents this was said; by Sir Laurence Olivier, “the greatest actor of them all;” by Marlon Brando, “the best actor in films.” Neither of those gentlemen was a slouch.

With his appeal in Hollywood dimmed, Mickey headed for the stage, starring in “Sugar Babies,” and to television, winning an Emmy and Golden Globe for “Bill.”

At 5 feet 2 inches tall, not that size matters, as evidenced by the small hands of a certain politician, Mickey was a chick magnet (sorry ladies). Mickey was married to Ava Gardner for a whole year, and then had a succession of marriages – seven more, some of relatively short duration – that produced 11 children. Mickey and Ava below. Somehow, you might guess that wouldn’t work.

But you could not help but like the guy.
Mickey Rooney died in 2014. His estate left barely $18,000, Mickey having plowed through millions of dollars. Maybe there is something to be said for timing, or good planning. Live until your money runs out. Although the kids might not be too happy.

Here is Mickey reviving his honorary Academy Award from Bob Hope in 1983.

Well deserved.

Sweet and Spicy Turmeric Chicken

Turmeric powder, as most of us recognize turmeric, derives from the root of a plant – Circuma longa – a member of the ginger family. Turmeric has long been used as a spice in Asian cooking. Circumin, a constituent, and turmeric itself, have been studied in treating various diseases, and as anti-inflammatories, but there is little clinical evidence to support their use as medicines. But a little turmeric goes a long way in the kitchen.

The following is easy to put together and the result is delicious.

Start by mixing 3 tablespoons of honey in 1/3 cup warm water. Mix in a teaspoon of cracked pepper and set aside.

Take a pound of chicken breasts and cut into one inch chunks. Place in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder. Toss to make sure the chicken is covered well.

Pour two tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven and heat to medium/high on your stove-top. Add the chicken/turmeric mixture and cook thoroughly. I put the cover on the Dutch oven, removing it frequently to stir. As the chicken browns and softens, add one-half cabbage that has been sliced and chopped. Continue cooking to caramelize the cabbage.

At this point, reduce to medium heat and add your honey mixture, stirring well. The sauce will thicken. Stir in a tablespoon of soy sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a shallow bowl, with a salad on the side.  Enough for two.  Easy-peasy.

Skillet Pasta

This recipe was adapted from one that appeared in the NY Times. It is easy and will serve four people, with leftovers. Ideal with a salad and some focaccia or ciabatta bread.

Start by heating 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add 3 good-sized onions (I use a combination of white and red onions) finely sliced, and sauté until slightly browned. With the heat still on medium, add 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Stir well for a minute or two and then transfer to a bowl.

In the same skillet, pour in a little more olive oil, and add 3 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic, another teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of cracked pepper. Open a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes and pour the juice into the skillet. Stir well before adding the diced tomatoes.

Separately, in a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, brown 1/2 pound of lean ground beef. Add a little salt and some cracked pepper. Once done, add the beef to the tomato mix and simmer for 20 minutes (the beef is optional.)

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and add a couple of cups of penne or rotini. Cook to a point just shy of al dente, about 9 minutes. Add the pasta to the tomato/beef mix in the skillet, mix well with a half cup of red wine, and then top with the browned onions, a cup and a half of shredded cheddar and a half cup of grated parmesan cheese. Bake for at least 20 minutes. Add a little greenery (parsley or basil leaves) for effect when done.